“You are a terrible person.” If someone genuinely accused me with this statement, I’d feel as if they had removed the heart in my chest through the skin, bones and flesh on my back. In other words, such a criticism would hurt. Emotionally and practically and mentally, people enjoy thinking of themselves as good. We construct our own approved pattern of morality and try with all fervor to abide by it.
When we fail our self-created Mosaic law, though, we allow self-criticism, but the one thing I’d hope no one would ever say about me is that I am a scoundrel, a moral failure or a terrible person. Others’ criticism is not permitted in our creative law books!
This is the problem with self-made rules; no one ever truly follows their own. We fail. And if we let the world into our lives, thoughts, motives and actions, everyone would realize that–relative to the litany of rules we place on ourselves–we are terrible people. We all break 100% of the precepts we claim to stand for.
For example, I have designed a custom edict for my home: anyone who leaves a mess in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or living room is wrong! And when my wife breaks the edict, I break out in critical song, letting her know she overstepped my boundary. But I do too! Over and over (albeit less than my beautiful wife) I leave my dish on the dining room table, my facial hair in the bathroom sink or my scrap paper on the computer desk. I fumble not only this statute but all the rest, as well–at some point or another.
I thank God (literally) that there’s a better way to think about this. As a Christian, I believe the Bible. It says that God realized people were terrible. Not only do we avoid our own rules, we fail at meeting God’s moral requirements. God sent a perfect substitute to live in our place, pay the moral debt we all owe and rise from death to prove it.
I am so glad God loved people enough to forgive them (me!) of our terrible failures through Jesus. So next time I realize I can be terrible, I don’t have to despair but trust God has already forgiven and given me new life!